England’s Sam Bairstow has admitted he’s eager to begin his defence of the Brabazon Trophy against a top-class international field featuring players from 16 nations across the world.
Saunton Golf Club will this week play host to the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play – the fifth time in the championship’s proud 75-year history that the Devon club has welcomed some of the world’s leading amateurs to its links.
Yorkshireman Bairstow’s first duty of the week, ahead of final day practice, was to hand back the famous gold trophy to championship director James Crampton.
However, it may only be on loan if Bairstow can repeat the form he showed last August while winning at Ganton.
Winning back-to-back titles is a tall order, but not impossible.
Six men have previously achieved that feat, including Sir Michael Bonallack and Gary Evans. The last man to successfully defend the Brabazon was Neil Raymond in 2012.
A total of 144 players from as far afield as South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia as well as 11 European nations will compete for glory this week on Saunton’s East course.
And Bairstow is looking to put up a stout defence of the title in the face of tough opposition.
He said: “I’m in good enough form, and of course I’m going to try and win.
“It’s a cliché but I’ll just try hard on every shot and see where it takes me by the end of the week.
“It meant a lot to win it last year – I was trending towards it throughout the season and to win at Ganton, a course I know very well in my home county, was special.”
“The trophy has been at my golf club ever since I won it. The members at Hallowes have been very supportive of me throughout my career and it was nice to give them a chance to put it in a cabinet and show it off.”
Saunton is in perfect condition ahead of the 72-hole stroke play event. A heavy pulse of rain on Tuesday was welcomed, but the course remains fast-running and challenging for players with the prevailing wind gusting off the west coast.
Bairstow added: “I’ve never played at Saunton before, but I walked the course on Tuesday to get a feel for it and will have one practice round.
“Walking gave me a good perspective of landing areas and the right places to hit it on the greens.
“First impressions were good and the greens were excellent and it should be a great week.
“I’ve been solid this season – three top tens in the events I’ve played and I’m now just looking for that win.
“Hopefully I can reach that target this week.
“There are so many good events all over the world that it’s difficult to peak for one particular time although I now have five weeks in a row and this is an important time of the year.”
Bairstow and seven of his England men’s squad team-mates come into the Brabazon on a high after beating France in a challenge match at St Nom-La-Breteche.
One of those players is John Gough, the reigning English Amateur champion and recent winner of the Spanish Amateur and Lytham Trophy. The 23-year-old could well be the man to watch given his winning streak over the last year.
However, the true international nature of the field – an element lost to the last two events due to Covid travel restrictions – makes this year’s championship one of the most eagerly anticipated on the amateur golf calendar and the list of potential winners is lengthy.